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I am truly delighted to welcome my good friend, the Foreign Minister of the Republic of Korea, Kang Kyung-wha, in Brussels. We had good and intensive talks yesterday, and we are very regularly in contact, especially in these months, and I am now looking forward to the discussion we will have with the Ministers of 28 Member States of the European Union. I am very grateful for her availability, having accepted our invitation to come and share with us her views on, in particular, the situation on the Korean Peninsula.
Let me start by saying that the European Union and South Korea are Strategic Partners. We share the same interests and values on all major issues – not most of them but all of them, and we really value enormously our friendship, which is extremely solid.
Our discussion today will not focus on bilateral issues but on the state of play and future prospects for the situation on the Korean Peninsula, in light of the recent, encouraging developments.
Since the Winter Olympics, we have heard indeed positive - even hopeful - news coming from the Korean Peninsula. It is not frequent to see glimpses of hope, and this is an additional reason for our interest in supporting these openings.
The commitments made by the DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea], and reported by the South Korean special envoys, to enter into negotiations on de-nuclearisation and to refrain from testing during these negotiations could create the necessary conditions towards a negotiated solution.
The Summit meeting between President Moon and Kim Jong-un in April could foster the necessary trust, de-escalate tensions and improve inter-Korean relations. President Trump's readiness to accept the invitation to a Summit by May represents another potential breakthrough towards a diplomatic solution that we would encourage very much.
The European Union strongly supports the complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula. All our efforts have been targeted towards achieving this goal and working together with our partners in Seoul in this direction.
This includes our sanctions on the DPRK, which are currently the most restrictive in operation on any country in the world. We will keep this pressure and continue advocating for the strict implementation of the UN Security Council resolutions by all UN members, which is essential for the sanctions to be effective. We are working on this now since several months.
But pressure is not a goal in itself. It is a tool; it is an instrument. Our objective has always been, is, and continues to be to help open the political path for a peaceful, negotiated solution of the North Korean nuclear issue.
We therefore strongly support the policy and the high-level diplomatic initiatives by the Republic of Korea. We share the view that pressure through sanctions and dialogue leading to negotiations should go hand-in-hand. And I want to express all our support, but also personal admiration to your wise leadership, the President's [of the Republic of Kora, Moon Jae-in] wise leadership, in bringing us all – because this is a global threat and it is a global challenge - closer to our common goal of a denuclearised Peninsula.
We as the European Union stand ready to do our part in this process, working together with you - the Republic of Korea - and with other key partners, including the United States, Japan, China and Russia.
We have a rare chance in the coming months to make peace prevail on the Korean Peninsula. It is an opportunity we believe we cannot afford to miss.
So, Foreign Minister Kang, thank you very much for being with us today. And thank you very much for your leadership and courage. And again, a warm welcome - regardless of the cold, freezing weather - to Brussels and to the European Union.